Q. I’m a May 2010 PR grad and am still looking for permanent employment. I’m finishing up an internship now (this will make three, one with a large agency), have been volunteering on a PRSA committee for almost a year now, and have had some discussions with various firms regarding entry-level slots over the past few months but keep getting hung by the “candidate with more experience” rope.
I’m wondering what my end game should be. The obvious goal (for practical and financial reasons) is/was to work in the field for three to five years before going to grad school, but what if it’s just not possible? What concerns me is the very real possibility that when I finish a graduate program, I’d be competing for the same AAE positions I’m competing for now with only a BA to my name. Still, it’s not as though I can be a professional intern forever. -KM
A. You raise interesting questions about breaking into PR these days. As mentioned in a recent blog post, it is important to find a job–even if it requires a momentary detour away from your desired profession. Once you land a full-time job, use it as the staging ground to develop your game plan to break into public relations.
Many employers will help pay for your graduate degree, and many companies will be open for your to be considered for PR positions internally once you gain experience. So focus on companies that have strong communication programs. When I was a manager of corporate communications at Lilly, I discovered PR superstar who was a pharmaceutical sales rep in Los Angeles. He knew the company’s products and we needed someone who could discuss them with the media. He did his job well, and quickly advanced. He later went on to top jobs at Mercedes and Toyota. You can’t look at the next job as something that locks you out of PR…use it as a vantage point/stepping stone into the profession–even if it’s through the back door.
Regarding a masters degree, it makes the greatest sense for you to pursue one after landing a full-time job. Waiting a while also will give you some time to determine exactly what type of degree will help you the most in the future. Graduate degrees do, indeed, provide you with deeper skill sets, experience and maturity that will help advance your career. Regarding the need for a potential move, you definitely should consider doing so if the right position is available outside your current location. I moved several times during the first 10 years of my career. I also switched job focus from media to politics before I finally landed in corporate PR. This dreadful economy requires career detours, but try to figure out ways to join an organization that logically leads to opportunities that provide potential segues to your eventual goal.